Raising A Bilingual Baby

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I grew up speaking four different languages and I understood atleast six languages in India. Everybody in my country is pretty much multilingual. You learn English in school, Hindi is our national language spoken quite widely by people, Marathi is our state language again spoken by the people of the state and taught in school very extensively and then if you happen to have a different mother tongue which I did, Bengali, you would learn that from errmm your mother!

So you see why it is so important for me that my child is atleast bilingual. I failed at it with Reuben and Irene. That is because they were proficient in Korean and I was not. I was trying to teach them English when they came to England because that was a priority at the time. And by the time I realised that it would be nice if they could speak my language, they were quite a bit older and I was relatively younger and unprepared for the challenge.

With baby Ro, I had nine whole months to decide and prepare myself for the challenge ahead. You see in India it is easy to pick up languages because you hear all these languages around you all the time but here English is so widely spoken and you yourself are so used to speaking in English that when you have to speak to somebody who is not capable of reciprocating in the same language as you, it is difficult to even talk in your own language, let alone speak with the intention of teaching it to somebody else.

However, I have chosen to teach my baby my mother tongue, and I have no idea whether he will eventually learn my language or not, that fear will live with me until he can speak properly in both English and my mother tongue, Bengali.

At present, Roshan understands a lot of what I say and sometimes will respond more to words spoken in Bengali than in English but at 14 months whatever he says is nothing more than babbles and sometimes plain gibberish. He calls his father “baba” and then refers to our dog Rustle as “Bubba”. Now we can differentiate what he means because we put his gibberish into context but how much of it is language is a mystery.

I have read no books and have no friends in a similar situation as mine who could inspire me. I am doing everything by instinct and trial and error. It is definitely a challenge but we are plodding along slowly. Here are some of the ways in which I try to teach my baby to be bilingual:

One Parent, One language

I try and speak to Roshan in Bengali. The idea is that one parent speaks to the baby in one language exclusively. Slowly the child associate that parent with the language and starts engaging in the language he associates that parent with.

For me , exclusivity is difficult because of my other two children. When there is nobody home, I speak to Roshan in Bengali but when the kids or Ed is home, I am speaking in English majority of the time and end up communicating with Roshan in English.

One thing I have started doing though is, as soon as I speak to Roshan in English, I then very quickly translate it into bengali in the hope that he picks up the language.

Reading books

This one is my favourite and quite difficult. Ideally, I’d buy books in bengali for Roshan but it is very difficult to get hold of in the UK. So I try to translate any book that we have into bengali for him.

Singing songs

I sing a lot to Roshan. And eventhough I don’t know a lot of bengali songs myself, I sometimes make up songs in my language. We have a bathtime song, poo-time song and even nappy change song. Words keep changing because, well I make it as I go along.

Skyping family

I skype my mother, practically everyday. My mother lives in a joint family and everybody tries to come and speak to Roshan. Everybody speaks to him in Bengali. I try to create a sense of community for my baby in those 20 minutes of skype time.

Watching films and listening to music

We don’t watch a lot of tv but every now and again I try and put on music videos that are in bengali. Roshan enjoys hindi songs more though.

I also try and put on bengali songs for him whilst we are playing, eating or just lounging. Again, Roshan prefers his dad’s hip hop more!

Selective Response

Roshan is too young for this. But the idea is when he can start talking, I am going to insist that he speaks to me in bengali if he wants to get a response. Initially I will translate his request into bengali and ask him to repeat it just how we teach our children to say “please’ and “thank you”. In time, he will develop an association and understand that if he wants mummy’s attention he needs to speak in bengali.

I think this one might seem a bit brutal but is essential because baby will try to avoid speaking in the language he finds hard to come up with words in. In order to encourage him this method will come handy.

Translate and repeat

As mentioned above, as a parent you might have to translate and make them repeat. Children are going to find it very hard to learn a language that they are not listening to around them. It will be especially difficult to find certain words and they’d be tempted to use the words in a language that they are used to listening to more. In order to help them find words more easily this method will be helpful.

I already do it with Roshan. I ask him to repeat words and phrases after me and eventhough he can’t quite speak the words he has mastered the art of mimicking the tone of the words or phrases, which I think is a step forward already.

Patience & Persevere

Please be patient. I have no experience but I think as a parent if I persevere, baby Ro will activate his subconscious and learn the language eventually.

There might be a phase where baby Ro might only reciprocate in English and that might be an excuse for me to stop speaking to him in Bengali. But if I persevere and carry on speaking to him in Bengali he might get over his phase and start speaking to me in my language.

I have seen some children do that. Some children speak in English in public out of embarrassment to their parents whilst the parents still carry o Hunn speaking in some native language. Same children, go home and speak very eloquently in their mother tongue.  

Have you raised a bilingual child? Do you have any tips for me?

 

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A Letter To Baby Ro On His Birthday

 

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Happy Birthday Roshan!

You are one already. It just feels like yesterday that I gave birth to you and was having sleepless nights, not because you won’t sleep but I couldn’t stop looking at you in awe. It still feels surreal that you made me experience motherhood like never before.

You have been the easiest baby. You came to this world without causing mama any pain, and you have lived for an entire year so far and have not caused mama any trouble in any form. I had a terrible pregnancy. I was worried for you because I could not eat or drink for the first six months, but you came out with a very loud pair of lungs and energy that is so infectious. You light up everybody’s day and your smile, just heart warming.

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Everybody knows you as the “happiest” baby in the world. On your birthday, we all started the day by having an early morning breakfast as daddy had to shoot off to work unfortunately. We opened some presents and daddy read you a book.

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Later on, we went to the grove ferry with Reuben and Irene and the dogs. The park was empty and the sun was shinning. There were dandelions all around. You had a nice sleep in the sling.

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When you woke up, you insisted we sat down. We played tickles with you, Irene made you a bouquet of wild flowers, you loved playing with dandelions. We watched a lot of birds together and you even tried to play ball with Pepper. In the afternoon, we visited Flo’s house and invited them to come over for some tea and cake at our house. Mama made you a nice chocolate cake (you devoured it). We sang you happy birthday, even daddy joined us on video call. It was so precious.

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Party cake by Kim

Your birthday celebrations did not stop at that. On the weekend, we threw you a huge birthday party. A lot of friends came to see you from far and wide. You were showered with so much love and presents. To be honest, you were slightly overwhelmed and the teething had given you a temperature, so you couldn’t be your own self that day. But people loved to see you nonetheless and enjoyed a lot.

This entire year has gone so quickly. You have learnt so much in just one year. There were so many moments that I have cherished with you. Some of them are already fading in my memory. But here are some of the fun facts that I remember about you and I know you would like to know them when you grow up. This is some of  the ways you have about you that makes you so special:

  1. You love to feed everyone whatever that is you are eating.
  2. You are really the happiest baby we have ever seen. You must have cried less than 10 times in the entire year (most of which was for legit reasons like temperature, teething, falling etc). I honestly, remember three such instances: once when I accidentally burnt you. So sorry! Once when you were teething and had a temperature and once when you fell for the first time.
  3. Babies have a reputation for not sleeping well or waking up in the middle of the night all active and hyper. But you have never done that. You wake up for night feeds, but you have literally never woken up with your eyes open wanting to be taken down to play or chat etc. We all sleep through the night pretty much.
  4. Recently you have developed a new attachment towards daddy. You prefer to sleep in between the both of us, roll over to me for some milk and then roll back over to sleep with daddy. It is so endearing!
  5. You never threw up, not even whilst burping after a feed. Burp cloth? What is that for?!
  6. You tell us off or whinge or even start to cry everytime Pepper is told off. Pepper gets away with murder these days, all thanks to you.
  7. You also have learnt the trick to feed the dogs under the table. You are so cheeky that you call the dogs even when they are in their beds to come and eat food from you.
  8. It is no surprise your first proper word happens to be Pepper. You do say mamma and babba, but it is still all babbles but when you say Pepper it is very intentional, articulate and full of effort.
  9. Your second favourite thing in the world after Pepper are birds. You are fascinated by them. You can point them out and say, “buuuuuuuds”. If we ask you where is the bird, you find them and then point out to say, “theeeyyhh” Awwww (melts my heart)
  10. Your favourite song to watch happens to be this bollywood song called, “bum bum bole” from “taarein zameen pe”. If you find anyone on the laptop or phone, you start saying, “umm umm, umm ummm” and do a little bounce bounce as if you want them to put the song on so you can dance.
  11. You are very gentle with cats and dogs. You have never once pinched them or scratched them or pulled their tails. Unlike your mama, you really like cats. Cats love you too. So far, all cats have rolled over for you including the stray ones. I hope it stays that way!
  12. You are obsessed with daddy’s guitar. He is the coolest rockstar for you. You almost have a baby crush on him. You relate to the “beep beep” song that he used to play when you were in mama’s belly.
  13. You also have a quirky way of eating your biscuit. You love dipping it in my tea. It has to be done!
  14.  You have always woken up just as mama sat down to eat. No seriously, every single time! Every single time! No seriously!
  15. You have one very annoying habit of twiddling with my other nipple whilst feeding on the other. If I move your hand, you boss me out by shouting.
  16. You have recently learnt to crawl up the stairs, and you love to climb all three storeys to get to Reuben’s room and play with his toys. You enjoy taking all his books off the shelf and empty his lego box and mess up his entire room.
  17. You love emptying all the cupboards in the kitchen. Well all babies do, but what you like the most is putting them back in. By the time you finish, the cupboard is a mess but you know what, they are all in the cupboard and I am grateful that I don’t have to do it.
  18. You also love emptying the washing machine for me. So after a wash I sometimes put you in front of the machine with a bucket, and you very happily empty it out for me. So thank you. Wonder how long will this last! I hope forever!

Honestly, the list could go on and on. There are just so many little details I don’t want to forget but I know I will with time. I hope you and I can read this together in the future and have a laugh about it.

We all love you so much. You have brought so much love to us all. You are the one who makes us a family. I hope you feel loved all your life and you carry on giving just the way you do at the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Ro’s First Holi on Spring Equinox

It was Holi last week – but baby Ro was running a temperature. The mood in our household wasn’t of the celebratory kind. So we decided to postpone any festivities.

But today is Roshan’s first spring equinox (that’s right, winter is officially over!) And since Holi – the festival of colours – is celebrated to welcome spring, it made total sense to combine the two.

Holi has a lot of different symbolic importance in Indian culture. There are various mythological stories in which the death of the devil who tried to kill baby Krishna is celebrated by lighting a bonfire and throwing colours at each other.

I have very fond memories of Holi from my childhood. We’d fill up balloons with coloured water and throw them at absolute strangers, passersby and friends days before Holi. Most people took it in their stride in the spirit of the festival. On the day itself we could throw colours at each other, play with water pistols and go around the community in groups to flush out any of the shy and colour-less. We’d also partake in a massive afternoon feast – lot of sweets are devoured.

The fun didn’t just stop at that. Sometimes we would have community events that locals would have been planning for days. We’d enjoy some amazing performances later in the day.

Also, no matter how much we tried we would never get rid of the colours completely even after several showers. As kids, I remember it being an unspoken competition amongst friends to see whose colours lasted the longest.

Oh how can I forget to mention love! Holi is also a lover’s paradise. The raw engagement of skin to skin in the whole colour application process brings about an air of flirtation, romance and teasing. Oh how I love Holi!

I am so glad I can give my kids a taste of this festival of colours, Holi. They had such great fun. I hope I can take them to India one day to enjoy the real deal. Although perhaps the romance bit can wait a little longer…

Irene’s 8th Birthday

Irene was 8 years old on 14th of August. We decided to have a family birthday this year. Her birthday falls in the middle of summer holidays, hence if we aren’t super organised it is usually very hard to assemble and gather any of her friends together as most of them tend to be on their holidays away. Luckily, for Irene little is more and she always finds happiness is whatever she is given. She is one grateful child and ofcourse we are grateful for them!

It has been 6 glorious years that I have been her mother. I have enjoyed every bit of it. I still remember the tiny little 2 year old, who was waiting at the railway station on a very cold winters day at Stourbridge with her 4 year old over excited brother to see “daddy’s friend”. We DID NOT hit it off right away unlike with her brother, who thought I was a princess and loved me right away.

Irene was shy (she still is), slightly nervous which came across as being grumpy and the only few phrases she loved saying in Korean was, “Sheeroh” or something like that which meant, “I hate it” or “I don’t like it”. And “Aneeyah” meaning “No” and ofcourse, “Anaajoh” meaning “pick me up and cuddle me”. It took a good few days before she gave us a smile and a hearty laugh and I was pleased that it was me who got it out of her. Ever since that day onwards, it has always been a not such a straightforward journey with Irene. We always get through things eventually but can never be on top of things. She is although very sociable, she is also an introvert. Today, when I think of all those six years that we have been together, I wish for a future full of immense confidence and strength in her. I hope she can always find a way to express herself openly and realise her dreams because I know she has an enormous amount of will and determination to make them all come true. As a parent, I hope we can provide her with tools to grow into a strong woman who can stand for herself and many others.

This has been a very special year for Irene. She became a big sister, and what a good one she is! She made us so proud with all her endeavour towards cross – country runs wherein she came 23rd amongst hundreds. She is taking her violin lessons and practices religiously. She makes us so proud. She is beautiful, charming and very kind at heart. What more could I want as a mother of an 8 year old.

For her birthday, we simply had a family breakfast, walk with the dogs, visit to the air show in Herne Bay and a meal together. It was a very good day and she was so content (or so it seemed)!

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When she arrived downstairs to clean her teeth, she heard us singing and was totally taken aback by the preparations. Her face, bless her!

 

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Hoola Hoop expert

 

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Grandma trying the hoola hoop

 

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Hoola Hoop was pretty popular and family friendly present

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My three babies – complete family!

 

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We do pancakes every weekend, but not American style with Berry compote. This went down a treat!

 

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Air Show – Herne Bay

 

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Rudy Warmar and the Heavy Weather

 

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Air Show – Herne Bay

 

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Air Show – Herne Bay

 

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Air Show – Herne Bay

 

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Irene wanted a banana cake for her birthday. I told you, she is an easy kid!

“Mum, I want to marry you”

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I remember having this conversation with my son when he was about 5 years old. He went through the phase where he didn’t like daddy touching mummy etc etc.

But yesterday, after school on the drive back home, my little 6 year old daughter said, “Mummy, when I grow up I want to still live with you”.

How sweet!! (I thought)

But before I could respond, my son jumped on to say, “But you might find a boyfriend and move out or get a job or go to university away from home.” (I think he must have learnt those possibilities from me, guilty)

So Irene said, “I don’t think I will have a boyfriend.”

Irene: “Mummy, I want to marry you”

It was a statement. No she wasn’t proposing! This is not how I accept marriage proposals.

Me: “But I am already married to daddy , love”

Irene: “Oh” (Caught ya)

After a looooong awkward silence she spoke AGAIN, ” but he is a MAAAAAAAN.” (we are moaning a little out of desperation here)

Me: “So? What are you saying, What do you mean ?”

Irene: “You said you are not allowed to marry another man, but I am going to be a woman. You can marry me and then I will even get to sleep with you in the same bed.”

Right this was getting a bit crazy and a bit out of my comfort zone. I miss daddy. I need rescuing.

Me: “I would love to have you living with me as long as you want Irene. Even if you do go to university and then want to come back to me, you are welcome. As for the marriage is concerned, you can’t marry until you are a grown up anyway.”

Irene: “When will I be a grown up ?”

Me: “You will be an adult when you are 18, how about we talk marriage then?”

I, couldn’t resist but cuddle her lots when we got home!

I love my children, even though they scare me with their love sometimes!! 😀